Pain and Neck Swelling in a Dog: Pippa Has Puppy Strangles

Sometimes, when you hear hooves, you need to think of zebras and not horses. Particularly if your dog has a constellation of severe symptoms that don’t fit a straightforward explanation.

Puppy strangles is a rare but potentially life-threatening autoimmune disease that affects young dogs. There seems to be a genetic component but the condition is considered idiopathic with no known cause.

Normally, symptoms start with facial swelling, followed by enlarged neck lymph nodes. Other symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • skin lesions that are itchy and painful
  • joint swelling
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy
  • limping

Further information: Juvenile Cellulitis (Puppy Strangles)

Pippa’s symptoms didn’t exactly follow the textbook which is why it was not readily apparent what was wrong with her.

Pain and Neck Swelling in a Dog: Pippa Has Puppy Strangles

Pippa’s story

Pippa was a healthy Bavarian Mountain Hound puppy. Her dad got her as a future hunting companion. The first few weeks, Pippa was doing great. Then, however, Pippa became very ill.

Pippas eyes were bloodshot, and her eyelids swollen; she could barely see. She was crying in pain, stopped eating, and became feverish. Something terrible was happening to Pippa. Her dad rushed Pippa to a veterinarian.

At the veterinarian

As she entered the exam room, Pippa staggered around in pain; her muscles hurt to touch. It was a strange constellation of symptoms. The veterinarian started supportive treatment and sent Pippa’s blood to a lab. Because of her lifestyle, he expected Pippa was suffering from some rare parasitic disease.

Except when the results came back, they were all negative. That was a good news but didn’t do anything to help figuring out what was wrong with Pippa. What is ailing the poor pup?

A new clue

It wasn’t until Pippas neck blew up with swelling when the puzzle pieces fell into place. Pippas neck lymph nodes became the size of golf balls. Many things can cause lymph nodes to swell, some of which would be a terrible news. The veterinarian aspirated both nodes and sent the cells to the lab.

In the meantime, Pippa was in bad shape; lethargic, dull, mostly just sleeping. She needed an urgent diagnosis and more than paliative treatment.

Pippa’s diagnosis

When the results came back this time, they brought an answer to Pippa’s problem. Pippa was suffering from puppy strangles.

Puppy strangles is a rare but debilitating disease that affects young dogs. It is believed to be autoimmune in nature; nobody has a good explanation for why it happens. It does, however, seem to have genetic involvement. Without treatment, puppy strangles are a life-threatening illness.

Pippa’s treatment

As soon as the lab results confirmed Pippa’s diagnosis, she received high levels of immunosuppressant medication. Quickly, she responded to the treatment and started improving. Pippa had to say on the meds for a long time, but she felt good and could be a puppy again. As she grows older, her immune system will settle down, and she’ll be able to get off the medication.

Source story:
Pippa is a Bavarian Mountain Hound

Related articles:
Facial Swelling in Dogs: Why Is My Dog’s Face Swollen?
Swelling (Edema) in Dogs

Further reading:
Juvenile Cellulitis (Puppy Strangles)

Categories: Dog health advocacyFacial swellingJuvenile cellulitisLethargyLoss of appetitePainPuppy stranglesSwellingSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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